Academic journal article Journal of Politics and Law

The 2010 General Elections in Mbeya Urban Constituency: Actors and Processes

Academic journal article Journal of Politics and Law

The 2010 General Elections in Mbeya Urban Constituency: Actors and Processes

Article excerpt

Abstract

Elections are very important part of a democratic polity. They are means through which citizens choose their representatives. The 2010 general elections in Tanzania were unique in that there was stiffcompetition between the ruling and opposition parties. The Mbeya urban constituency is exemplary of such competitive politics. In this article, I examine the entire electoral process and actors in the constituency with a view to evaluate their impact on both electoral outcomes and democracy. I argue that overall the entire process went smoothly albeit some specific problems related to voter registration, inadequate institutional capacity in managing elections, corruption, polling, and tallying of votes. In some instances, these problems led to violence in the constituency.

Keywords: Tanzania, Mbeya, democracy, elections

1. Introduction

In a democracy, struggle for political office takes place through elections. That struggle essentially involves elites. However, elites are always the minority. Despite being the minority, they perform all political functions, monopolize power and enjoy the advantages that power brings. Indeed, they rule over the majority in line with their wishes and interests. It should be pointed out that in order to compete for power, elites normally struggle to design, shape and reshape the rules of the game and resources among themselves (Bratton &Walle, 2007; Pinkney, 1997). This would mean that the elites who are relatively more powerful are likely to influence the rules of the game in their favour. When a group of elites dominates such rules, the outcome is usually an unfair competition.

African states and governments almost universally adopted one-party state immediately after gaining political power from colonial control. This state of affairs lasted for decades in most countries before the Huntington's "Third Wave" in 1990's. During this wave, the democratic transition from authoritarianism to democracy saw the domination of the process by ruling parties. They were the ones who laid down principles of transition and consequently the entire rules of the game were skewed in their favour. Olukoshi (1998) aptly argues that during transition in Africa, while opposition groups were kept awaiting to be invited to participate in the founding elections, the ruling elites set parameters for their participation. The outcome of such transition has in most cases been suffocation of political space by ruling parties to the detriment of opposition parties, civil societies and other social movements. In the transition literature, this phenomenon is commonly referred to as top down democratisation in which the ruling elites initiated and controlled the democratic process (Hyden, 1999).

Just like its African counterparts, Tanzania (Note 1) was under a one-party rule for about three decades. It got its independence on 9 December, 1961 from British colonial rule. In 1962 it became a Republic whereby a Republican constitution was formed giving immense powers to the president as both the head of state and government. Elections leading to independence were on a multiparty framework before the country decided to abolish all opposition parties and any other organised groups for the sake of national unity, nation-building and development. The move towards single-party started in 1963 when the first president of Tanganyika Julius Kambarage Nyerere announced to the ruling party's Executive Committee then Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) the intention that Tanganyika should be a one-party state on the above mentioned grounds. This led to the formation of a Committee whose recommendations led to one-party state in 1965. This went hand in hand with the formation of an Interim constitution of 1965 whose Article 3(1) stated that there should be one political party in the United Republic of Tanzania.

Constitutionally, TANU was therefore the only party in mainland Tanzania while the Afro Shiraz Party (ASP) was in Zanzibar. …

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